Q. How was VYRL Originals conceived and what got you interested in the project?
A. It was a collaborative effort, conceptualised with Devraj Sanyal [MD and CEO, Universal Music India] and Vinit Thakkar [Senior VP, Universal Music India] under EMI Records India, where we aim to promote independent singers, composers and lyricists. I have been invariably doing this through my career since my first film, when I launched Atif Aslam. And since then with every film I have tried to launch new talent. Mithoon [composer and lyricist], too, did his first work with me. All this was being done subconsciously in an unstructured way and it was Vinit who put a whole structure to this. We had worked closely before while I was working on Raaz: The Mystery Continues , and he had seen how I work with my musicians, so he said, “Why don’t we do this in a more structured format? And we at Universal Music can consolidate everything and together we can give artists a chance to showcase their music independently.”
Q. We have heard that you will be closely involved with every aspect of the songs that will be released under VYRL Originals. How exactly will you be contributing to the tracks?
A. Well, I always like to contribute in a way to allow the artiste to do what they want and not be dictated by any terms. Hats off to Universal Music. They have allowed me to do just that with these artistes. There is no reason to follow, get new talent and then ask them to make a song the way you wanted to make it. Your references are going to be your past successes and your previous achievements but the guys who are new, they have to find their own voice and own ground. So, I hear their music which I feel is good and I mentor them and give them direction and perspective. We collaborated with Abhijit Vaghani, who has produced music for a lot of Bollywood films. We gave these artistes the production facility that they rightfully deserve because they don’t have the budgets to do it, which is at the production level of any big Hindi film song.
Q. How important do you think the digital medium is to bridge the gap between film and non-film music?
A.Whenever technology changes, music finds its ground first. In the ’90s we went through this technological change, where cable television suddenly came in, so music was not just restricted to its physical form, but channels like MTV, channel V mushroomed. And then came out the independent music scene as there was a bigger appetite for music. You have so many users increasing by millions every year. It has all become digital now, and this has just given us a platform where we can put out good content.
Q. Most tracks from your films make it to the top charts, almost instantly. How do you go about zeroing down on songs for your films, and how involved are you in the process of making music?
A. To be honest, people think because my music has done so well, I’ve got some special skills. But actually there is no special skill, I don’t even know how to play a musical instrument or know a scale or a sur. I have never studied music, I just listen to music like all of us do. Maybe the consumer in me or the person who likes to hear music is the same, so I listen to music in that form. I do think about my music while I am scripting. Sometimes there are songs that come later, like “Tum Hi Ho” [in the movie Aashiqui 2] and “Sun Raha Hai Na Tu”[ Aashiqui 2]. These were the songs that I got after the script was done and in fact “Sun Raha Hai Na Tu” came after the shooting was done of the first schedule. I had the song long back but it was in my bank. I used it much later. So there is no definite process of how I do it, but yes, I do write scripts keeping the music in mind, and I think about the songs that fit into the situations.
Q. We are hearing a lot of remixes these days, and not just on non-film platforms but also in a lot of films. What is your take on that? Do you think the trend is a threat to the creation of original music in the industry?
A. I am completely against it to be honest. But I understand the requirement of a film director or producer at the time of release, who are going in for something that is a safe bet, something that has been tried and tested and has done well. Until we don’t keep seeking, we won’t find answers and growth. We need to seek outside and look outside for finding more music. So, I think while I don’t have a problem against people who do it, I just feel we need to step out a little bit outside of our comfort zone. Yes, we might fail, but there are chances we might succeed, it will allow the music industry to grow further.
Q. Coming to your films. Most of them (despite being very different from each other thematically) belong to the romantic genre. Why is that so?
A.My last 3-4 films have been in the romantic genre, but the fact is that before that I have made films like Murder 2 , Kalyug , Awarapan —which are all thrillers. I think there was a change in me post-Aashiqui 2 . I had never touched the romantic genre and when I did it, I wanted to explore it more. So, it’s just a filmmaker’s journey where you reinvent yourself every 7-8 years and that was what I tried to do. Now I’m enjoying making love stories.
Q. How would you define the art of filmmaking?
A.I don’t think anyone can define the art of filmmaking. Everyone has their own style, and their own expressions. Essentially it is like any form of art, it is just something that transports you from emotion A to emotion B. There should be a journey of emotions that you started off with and then ended with. And that is essentially your story.
Q. Tell us about your upcoming projects?
A. I am actually in the process of writing a project which I shall be announcing soon, and I am just a little behind the curve right now with my writing process. But I promise as soon as I get done with the writing, I’ll make a big announcement.